Wake Up! from The Sleep of Reason: Johannes Faustus and “The Aufklärung Song.”
By Robert Hanna and Hemmo Laiho
“Aufklärung” means “enlightenment,” as in The Enlightenment.
But what is enlightenment?
Here’s the core of what Immanuel Kant had to say about this fundamental cognitive, moral, and sociopolitical concept in his seminal 1784 essay, “What is Enlightenment?”:
Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his own self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding! is thus the motto of Enlightenment.
When nature has unwrapped, from under this hard shell, the seed for which she cares most tenderly, namely the propensity and calling to think freely, the latter gradually works back upon the mentality of the people (which thereby gradually becomes capable of freedom in acting) and eventually even upon the principles of government, which finds it profitable to itself to treat the human being, who is now more than a machine, in keeping with [their] dignity.[ii]
The fundamental cognitive, moral, and sociopolitical issues raised by the concept of enlightenment are as central to global culture in the early 21st century, as they were to European culture in the late 18th century.
But the media for conveying philosophical messages about enlightenment have radically changed.
Kant and other Enlightenment philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries created hard-copy essays and books shared by a few thousand literate people belonging to the continental European or Anglo-American intellectual, cultural, economic, and political elites, and their empires; now we create digitized essays and books, blogs, texts, tweets, digital images, digitized music, and streamable videos instantly shared or shareable by millions or even billions worldwide.
And thus it happens that the contemporary Finnish philosopher Hemmo Laiho and the other members of his art/alternative/psychelic/progressive rock band, Johannes Faustus, have created “The Aufklärung Song”:
Stream song at Bandcamp HERE (with more links to follow on 11 October 2019)
In recent correspondence, Laiho remarked that
The Aufklärung Song can be listened to not only as an Enlightenment anthem or as a sort of weird danceable tribute to Kant, but also as a general critique of the irrationalism of today’s world, and the failures of humankind, including the Enlightenment project itself. Some interesting Artificial] Intelligence connotations might also be found in it….
The issues raised by the song are not only fundamental but also global.
Indeed, Hanna’s recent essay, “The Sleep of Reason: Philosophy’s Crisis, Humanity’s Crisis, and What Should Be Done,” discursively addresses many of the same themes.
So we hereby exhort you to read the essay, then re-watch the video or re-stream the song, and wake up! from The Sleep of Reason–
[i] I. Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?,” trans. M. Gregor, in Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 17–22 (WiE 8: 35, 41–42).
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